How To Overhead Press
1) Start with a racked barbell that is level with your upper chest.
2) Take an overhand grip on the barbell that places your hands approximately 1 inch outside of your shoulders.
3) Adjust your grip so that the bar is in the lower portion of your palm. This will help keep your wrists straight throughout the movement which prevents wrist and elbow pain.
4) Squeeze your elbows in until your forearms are straight. This will produce a tight/secure feeling in your arms and shoulder girdle which will help you produce more strength and power.
5) Take a deep breath and brace your core as if somebody was about to punch you in the gut while squeezing your glutes.
6) Unrack the barbell and take 2 steps back. Take a stance that is shoulder width apart and hold the barbell in the starting position over your upper chest.
7) Press the barbell straight up while keeping it as close to your face as possible. As the barbell clears your face, shove your head forward and continue pressing up in a natural arch until your arms are fully locked out.
8) Bring the barbell back down to your upper chest area and then repeat the movement for the desired number of reps.
Failure to grip the bar at the appropriate width during the overhead press will make the exercise harder to complete and cause possible shoulder pain and discomfort.
The best grip width for the overhead is 1-inch outside of your shoulders. This keeps your shoulders in a healthy position and engages your triceps more which will help increase the size of your arms.
Gripping The Bar
Make sure that you grip the barbell in the lower portion of your palm. This allows you to keep your wrists straight during the movement which will make you stronger and prevent wrist and elbow pain.
Why We Do The Overhead Press
Keep Your Shoulders Healthy – The shoulder is made up of 3 main muscles. These are called the front, side, and rear deltoid. Most people have overdeveloped front deltoids from only doing the bench press. This leads to poor posture and eventual injury. In order to keep all 3 shoulder muscles balanced and healthy, you must do the overhead press. Heavy overhead presses stress all 3 muscles of the shoulder equally and are essential if you want to build a balanced healthy physique.
Build Bigger Arms – When people think of big arms, they usually think of biceps. Truth is, your tricep muscles actually account for 2/3 of your arm size. Your triceps get stressed hard when performing the overhead press which forces them to grow bigger and stronger. If having big arms is important to you, start training the overhead press ASAP.
Increased Core Strength – Any exercise that is done while standing puts lots of stress on your core muscles. Forget about doing endless sets of sit-ups or silly medicine ball exercises. Instead, press heavy weight overhead to build impressive core strength.
Build Confidence – Nothing will make you feel more powerful than pressing heavy weight overhead. This will also make you stand out in the gym because most people don’t overhead press at all, let alone see anyone that can press large amounts of weight. You will become one of the strongest guys in the gym in no time and soon everyone will start asking you questions about how to train.
Common Mistakes To Avoid
Bent Wrists – Most newbies hold the barbell high in their palm which forces their wrists to bend excessively during the exercise. Not only will this make you weak, but it will also cause pain and internal damage to your wrists and elbows that could eventually require surgery. Always grip the barbell lower in your palm while Squeezing the barbell as hard as you can. Doing so will help you keep straight wrists throughout the movement and engage more muscle mass.
Get Under The Bar – Make sure you keep the bar as close to your face as possible and finish the press by moving your head forward. This helps finish the press out in a natural arch which fully engages all of your shoulder muscles. We want all of the shoulder muscles engaged so that we build strong healthy shoulders that remain injury free.
Excessive Back Arch – Arching your back to handle heavier loads is one of the worst things you can do. It puts an enormous amount of stress on your lower back which can lead to serious injury. Instead, brace your core and flex your glutes. Doing so will prevent excessive back arch and make you stronger throughout the movement.
Stance – Make sure you are in a stance that is no wider than shoulder-width apart. Taking a stance that is too wide or too narrow will make the exercise harder and hold your strength gains back. Remember, more strength is more muscle.
Knee Bounce – Don’t get momentum by bouncing your knees at the bottom of the exercise. The overhead press is meant to be done as strict as possible in order to build and preserve shoulder health. When an overhead press is done with knee bounce at the bottom it becomes a different exercise called the push press.
About Shoulder Impingement
Shoulder impingement is a phenomenon that happens to some lifters that press overhead.
This issue is caused when your AC joint collides with your rotator cuff during the top part of the exercise.
If you have been getting pain from the overhead press and suspect that you are suffering from shoulder impingement, you can finish the press with a shrug of the shoulders.
Shrugging your shoulders lifts your rotator cuff up and out of the way of your AC joint which provides relief from the issue altogether.
Having said that, I have never experienced this issue myself or with the numerous personal training clients that I’ve worked with throughout the years.
Performing The Overhead Press Without A Rack
If you don’t have access to a rack or live in a home with low ceilings, you will not be able to perform the overhead press from a rack position.
However, you will always have the option of training outdoors and cleaning the barbell up to the starting position of the movement.
This may seem inconvenient but it is well worth it.
Performing a seated barbell press is not equivalent to the standing version of the movement.
How To Clean The Barbell
Cleaning the barbell is really simple, especially if you already know how to perform a deadlift with good form.
1) Stand under the barbell with the bar directly over your mid-foot.
2) Bend over while keeping your legs as straight as possible and take an overhand grip on the bar that is one inch outside shoulder width.
3) Bring your knees forward until your shins are touching the bar and straighten your back by dropping your hips slightly and squeezing your chest up while flexing your lats.
4) Drag the barbell up against your legs and reverse curl it explosively into the starting position.
5) Perform your desired number of reps and return the bar back to the floor.
Best Way To Improve Your Form
Filming your exercises is the second best thing you can do next to hiring a strength coach.
You will never perfect your form if you don’t know what you look like.
Anyone can easily film themselves by using the built-in camera on their smartphone.
If you don’t have anyone that can film for you, buy a smartphone tripod.
How Often Should I Overhead Press?
At most, you should be pressing overhead twice a week.
Any more than that and your muscles will not have enough time to fully recover in between workouts.
Excessive pressing can also lead to inflamed tendons which can cause nagging injuries such as tendonitis.
Your muscles grow outside of the gym, not during your workouts.
Strength Goals For The Overhead Press
The Overhead press is the most difficult lift to get strong in for the vast majority of lifters, but with time, you should be able to press a good amount of weight overhead for reps.
In order to be considered strong, you need to able to press .75 to 1 times your own body weight overhead.
If you are a 200-pound guy, you ought to be able to press 200 pounds over your head.
However, reaching those numbers will take time and dedication.
Don’t rush the process, trust the process.
Train hard and be smart.
From The Man Himself –